Here’s the penultimate batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles.
COASTERS – Yakety Yak / Zing Went the Strings of My Heart (Atco 1958)
Teenage rebellion and the generation gap were big themes in the fifties. Sure, the young had always rebelled – the jazz age flappers, the bright young things, the zoot suiters and the like. But this was the first generation where there was a clear divide between the young and their parents across the whole class and race spectrum. Lieber and Stoller, as usual, took a humorous look at the issue with the put upon teen getting the usual grief that anyone who’s been fifteen can identify with. King Curtis’s saxophone work is a sublime mix of comedy and jazz-chops.
MARVIN GAYE – You / Change What You Can (Tamla 1968)
STEVIE WONDER – You Are The Sunshine of My Life / Tuesday Heartbreak (Tamla 1973)
MARY WELLS – You Beat Me to the Punch / Old Love (Motown 1962)
SUPREMES – You Keep Me Hanging On / Remove This Doubt (Motown 1966)
A quartet of classic Motown. You sees Marvin Gaye in rare uptempo mode with a pleading vocal performance that has echoes of Levi Stubbs. Back in the early seventies when Stevie Wonder was at his creative zenith, he could pitch warm, celebratory love songs without coming over all sentimental and cloying. Mary Wells, Motown’s first superstar, is seemingly only remembered in the mainstream for My Guy, but there was so much more to her than that. You Beat Me to the Punch is one of those lyrically clever Smokey Robinson compositions that you just know was built from title downwards. My favourite of the four, You Keep Me Hanging On has a brilliant morse code single chord that almost physically holds the song up before the rush to the chorus, adding real drama to the piece. I could have opted for Vanilla Fudge’s sublime cover, too. It’s a sludge tempoed prog beast that builds the song up to some kind of sub-apocalyptic epic.
ARTHUR ALEXANDER – You Better Move On / A Shot of Rhythm & Blues (Dot 1962)
WILLIAM BELL – You Don’t Miss Your Water / Formula of Love (Stax 1962)
It could be argued (too mealy mouthed? – OK, I would argue) that 1962 was a pivotal year for soul music, when it fully emerged from its rhythm and blues roots as a new and completely separate genre. These two songs have become soul staples over the years. Arthur Alexander is a neglected figure these days, best known for two songs, Anna (covered by the Beatles) and this one (covered by the Stones), that epitomised the way that the new generation of British groups were drawing not just from the blues, but from a new generation of African American music. William Bell’s You Don’t Miss Your Water is the foundation stone of country soul, with Booker T Jones’ churchy organ underpinning a ballad full of regret.
THE SOURCE FEATURING CANDI STATON – You Got the Love / mixes (Truelove 1991)
You can judge the impact of a dance track by the number of times it’s been reissued and remixed. This has been out in various forms any number of times in the last twenty years. The recipe is simplicity itself. Take an acapella version of an eighties Gospel tune sung by the inimitable Candi Staton. Take an instrumental mix of a Jamie Principle / Frankie Knuckles house tune (Your Love). Mix thoroughly and allow to settle. The result is a timeless upbeat anthem that has survived countless remixes and remakes (Joss Stone anyone? Thought not).
MY BLOODY VALENTINE – You Made Me Realise / Slow (Creation 1988)
More infamous now for the mid section full on noise burst (known as the holocaust in MBV circles) than for the song itself which has become merely a vehicle for the centrepiece. Without it, though, it would still stand up as a rare uptempo tune by the band that still has the melody and muffled mystery intact.
NANCY SINATRA – You Only Live Twice / Jackson (Reprise 1967)
If Robbie Williams deserves our hatred for just one thing, it’s his lifting of the classic string intro of You Only Live Twice and basing his own pisspoor song around it, leaving it the only memorable bit. Nancy S had a decent song to go with it, and a great, dramatic one too.
KINKS – You Really Got Me / It’s Alright (Pye 1964)
Punk rock year zero? Maybe. Heavy metal year zero? Maybe? One of the most exciting and influential tunes of the twentieth century? Without a doubt. Everything about is perfect. The riff, Dave Davies’s ripped speaker cone fuzztone, brother Ray’s snotty vocal delivery and the boldly basic tune.
SAM COOKE – You Send Me / Summertime (Keen 1957)
Cooke’s first hit, post Soul Stirrers, and a song that effortlessly fused rock, doowop and R&B styles into something smooth and new. Listen to this and then listen to the Miracles and the Impressions to see how influential it was.
JESUS & MARY CHAIN – You Trip Me Up / Just Out of Reach (Blanco Y Negro 1985)
OK, here’s something to ponder. Who in rock music history has produced the best treble of opening singles?. Elvis? That’s Alright and Mystery Train are a given but the third one – I couldn’t say what it was without looking it up. Chuck Berry? Again, brilliant first two (Maybellene and Thirty Days) but a relatively anonymous third. The Pistols? Definitely up there, as are the Clash (but only if you discount CBS’s bizarre and disowned decision to release Remote Control as a 45). The Smiths and Frankie Goes to Hollywood – definite contenders. For me, though, Upside Down, Never Understand and You Trip Me Up are the unbeatable trio. Raw energy, screeching feedback and underplayed but memorable melodies are the cornerstones of all three. As a unit – immense.